According to reports, the House Armed Services Committee is currently preparing an amendment to arm and train the Syrian rebels that will be voted on this week. If passed, the bill will be attached to the continuing resolution to fund the government until December. **UPDATE** The amendment has been posted.
The most troubling element to the proposed amendment is a provision allowing the Obama administration to arm and train rebels with ties to terrorism. The “vetted moderate rebel” groups supported by the administration are known to be partnering with designated terrorist organizations, and the passage of this amendment would give congressional blessing to such arrangements.
According to The Hill:
The measure includes several provisions intended to satisfy Republicans and Democrats worried about giving the administration blanket authority to arm and train rebel groups, who would be used in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
It would require Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to submit the administration’s plan for training the moderate opposition 15 days before the commencement of any such activities, the aide said. That requirement was put forward by the administration, the aide added.
After that, Hagel would have to submit an update to lawmakers every 90 days.
That will be the extent of oversight by Congress — notification by the Pentagon.
But then there’s this:
The Pentagon would be required to list every individual they are recruiting, and would have to provide information on their backgrounds, including any possible links to terrorist organizations, according to the aide.
But the bill would not prohibit people with links to terrorist groups from actually participating in the program, the aide said. Such a blanket prohibition could make it tougher to recruit people for the training program.
Remarkably, this amendment is being billed by Republican leadership and the D.C. media as limiting Obama’s powers.
As I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media the past two weeks, considerable evidence is mounting that the “vetted moderate rebels” that the U.S. has already sent weapons to are allying with ISIS and other terrorist groups on the local level.
On September 3, I reported that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — the main rebel group fighting the Assad regime — recently allied with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. A FSA commander later confirmed my reporting on their alliance near the Lebanon border.
Then on September 9, I reported on one of the first rebel groups to receive heavy weapons from the CIA earlier this year, Harakat al-Hazm, which has also allied with Jabhat al-Nusra.
And this past weekend I reported that the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), which had been billed as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” has signed a peace deal with ISIS according to both Arabic and English media reports. The head of SRF yesterday published a denial — in English (meaning, for Western audiences) — of those reports. And yet, the Wall Street Journal reported in May about SRF’s open cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusra.
So with this House amendment, Republicans would be endorsing the Obama administration’s existing policy of arming and training Syrian rebel groups known to be working with terrorists, which would effectively give Obama political cover in the case of more U.S. weapons ending up in the hands of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
They don’t call the GOP “the stupid party” for nothing.
Obama’s hope to do anything of substance in Syria took another severe blow yesterday as the U.S.-backed and armed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) struck a peace deal with ISIS, according to both Arabic and English language news reports.
The SRF had only a few months ago been deemed by the U.S. foreign policy establishment as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies.”
Now AFP reports:
Syrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have agreed a non-aggression pact for the first time in a suburb of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group said on Friday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ceasefire deal was agreed between ISIS and moderate and Islamist rebels in Hajar al-Aswad, south of the capital.
Under the deal, “the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime.”
Nussayri is a pejorative term for the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
According to media reports, other groups joining the ceasefire with ISIS include Liwa Ahrar Turkman al-Golan, Liwa Hittin and Liwa al-Umma al-Wahida.
When seeking U.S. heavy weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles, SRF commander Jamal Maroof was full of bravado, declaring war against ISIS. In May, McClatchy reported that SRF and other “vetted moderate rebel” groups had received TOW missiles from the U.S. and posted videos of their use.
But as soon as weapons were being delivered to Maroof’s SRF forces, he was giving interviews to Western media making clear that “al-Qaeda is not our problem.”
A May 2014 report by Jenan Moussa of Al-Aan notes that Maroof runs SRF in a cave with his three wives and children:
During that interview where Maroof talks about receiving U.S. military aid and his soldiers receiving U.S. training, there is one curious artifact in the background, as you’ll see in the photo on the next page.
As President Obama laid out his “strategy” last night for dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and as bipartisan leadership in Congress pushes to approve as much as $4 billion to arm Syrian “rebels,” it should be noted that the keystone to his anti-Assad policy — the “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) — is now admitting that they, too, are working with the Islamic State.
This confirms PJ Media’s reporting last week about the FSA’s alliances with Syrian terrorist groups.
On Monday, the Daily Star in Lebanon quoted a FSA brigade commander saying that his forces were working with the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate — both U.S.-designated terrorist organizations — near the Syrian/Lebanon border.
“We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army’s gatherings in … Qalamoun,” said Bassel Idriss, the commander of an FSA-aligned rebel brigade.
“We have reached a point where we have to collaborate with anyone against unfairness and injustice,” confirmed Abu Khaled, another FSA commander who lives in Arsal.
“Let’s face it: The Nusra Front is the biggest power present right now in Qalamoun and we as FSA would collaborate on any mission they launch as long as it coincides with our values,” he added.
In my report last week I noted that buried in a New York Times article last month was a Syrian “rebel” commander quoted as saying that his forces were working with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in raids along the border with Lebanon, including attacks on Lebanese forces. The Times article quickly tried to dismiss the commander’s statements, but the Daily Star article now confirms this alliance.
Among the other pertinent points from that PJ Media article last week was that this time last year the bipartisan conventional wisdom amongst the foreign policy establishment was that the bulk of the Syrian rebel forces were moderates, a fiction refuted by a Rand Corporation study published last September that found nearly half of the Syrian “rebels” were jihadists or hard-core Islamists.
Another relevant phenomenon I noted was that multiple arms shipments from the U.S. to the “vetted moderate” FSA were suspiciously raided and confiscated by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, prompting the Obama administration and the UK to suspend weapons shipments to the FSA last December.
In April, the Obama administration again turned on the CIA weapons spigot to the FSA, and Obama began calling for an additional $500 million for the “vetted moderate rebels,” but by July the weapons provided to the FSA were yet again being raided and captured by ISIS and other terrorist groups. Remarkably, one Syrian dissident leader reportedly told Al-Quds al-Arabi that the FSA had lost $500 million worth of arms to rival “rebel” groups, much of which ended up being sold to unknown parties in Turkey and Iraq.
At the same time U.S.-provided FSA weapons caches were being mysteriously raided by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the senior FSA commanders in Eastern Syria, Saddam al-Jamal, defected to ISIS. In March, Jabhat al-Nusra joined forces with the FSA Liwa al-Ummah brigade to capture a Syrian army outpost in Idlib. Then in early July I reported on FSA brigades that had pledged allegiance to ISIS and surrendered their weapons after their announcement of the reestablishment of the caliphate. More recently, the FSA and Jabhat al-Nusra teamed up last month to capture the UN Golan Heights border crossing in Quneitra on the Syria/Israel border, taking UN peacekeepers hostage.
But the Free Syrian Army is not the only U.S.-armed and trained “rebel” force in Syria that the Obama administration is having serious trouble keeping in the “vetted moderate” column.
Earlier this week I reported on Harakat al-Hazm, which was the first of the “vetted moderates” to receive U.S. anti-tank weaponry earlier this year. Harakat al-Hazm is reportedly a front for the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Turkey and Qatar, its Islamist state sponsors.
An L.A. Times article was published this past Sunday from the battle lines in Syria. The reporter recounted a discussion with two Harakat al-Hazm fighters who admitted, “But Nusra doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusra.”
Despite a claim by the L.A. Times that Harakat al-Hazm had released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with al-Nusra Front, I published in my article earlier this week an alliance statement signed by both Jabhat al-Nusra and Harkat al-Hazm forging a joint front in Aleppo to prevent pro-Assad forces from retaking the town.
As the Obama administration began to provide heavy weaponry to Harakat al-Hazm, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy published an analysis hailing Harakat Hazm as “rebels worth supporting,” going so far as to say that the group was “a model candidate for greater U.S. and allied support, including lethal military assistance.”
Last week here at PJ Media, I reported on the ongoing relations between the U.S.-backed “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army and ISIS. I also noted that, at this time last year, the received wisdom of the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment was that the Syrian rebels were largely moderate.
Now, a report in this past Sunday’s L.A. Times from the frontlines in Syria finds that another “vetted moderate” rebel group, Harakat Hazm – which has received anti-tank missiles from the U.S. — has been working with al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra: a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. (HT: Tim Furnish and Tom Joscelyn.)
As Al-Akhbar reported back in May, in addition to having U.S. backing, Harakat Hazm is also backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, and Qatar.
As the L.A. Times reporter rides with two U.S.-backed and armed Harakat Hazm fighters, the topic of conversation turns to Jabhat al-Nusra:
Harakat Hazm, for example, has struggled with being regarded as a U.S. pawn and labeled as secular in the midst of an opposition movement that has grown increasingly Islamist.
“Inside Syria we became labeled as secularists and feared Nusra Front was going to battle us,” Zeidan said, referring to an Al Qaeda-linked rebel group that has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. Then he smiled and added, “But Nusra doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusra.”
But the L.A. Times reporter then immediately adds:
In July, eight West-backed rebel brigades — all recipients of military aid — released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Al Nusra Front.
But at the same time Harakat Hazm was supposedly releasing a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Nusra, it signed a statement of alliance with Nusra to prevent the Assad regime from advancing into Aleppo. The alliance statement was published on Twitter:
What the statement and the Aleppo alliance demonstrate is something that I and others have been contending all along: the so-called Syrian rebels given the State Department’s “vetted moderate” imprimatur have been playing a double-game. And the Obama administration, the foreign policy establishment and the establishment media have all gladly played along with our “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel allies.
Arabic media reports indicate that Saudi authorities raided a house church in Khafji province, arresting 27 men, women and children. The raid was conducted by the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, according to reports.
Khafji was the site of the first major ground engagement of the 1991 Gulf War.
The raid is another part of an ongoing harassment campaign directed at Christians at the exact same time that the Saudi Kingdom is making a major “interfaith outreach” push internationally.
Here is an Arabic report that appeared late yesterday on Twitter:
Another report appears to show pictures of the Saudi raid:
A 2010 Reuters report observes the plight of Christians in the Gulf states and the Arabian Peninsula:
At least 3.5 million Christians of all denominations live in the Gulf Arab region, the birthplace of Islam and home to some of the most conservative Arab Muslim societies in the world. The freedom to practice Christianity — or any religion other than Islam — is not always a given in the Gulf and varies from country to country. Saudi Arabia, which applies an austere form of Sunni Islam, has by far the tightest restrictions.
As the Islamic State engages in widespread religious cleansing in Iraq and Syria of ancient Christian communities, it might be fair to ask whether the difference between Wahhabis and the Islamic State is merely of degree and not kind.
Also read: The Islamic State vs. the Islamic Republic
As the Obama administration struggles to address the threat from ISIS and plans to go to Congress in the coming weeks to up its commitment against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, multiple media reports indicate that the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) is operating openly with ISIS and other designated terrorist groups. And yet financial and military support for the FSA is the keystone to the administration’s policy in Syria.
Some background is essential.
It was just over a year ago that the Institute for the Study of War’s Liz O’Bagy was opining in the Wall Street Journal about her travels to Syria and purported discovery that the Syrian “rebels” really weren’t bloodthirsty jihadists, but moderates worthy of U.S. financial and military support — in particular, heavy weapons. Her claims about the Syrian rebels, particularly the FSA, were cited and praised by Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain.
That view, of course, quickly came crashing down as O’Bagy came under fire for failing to disclose that she was also a paid agent of a Syrian rebel front. (She had also lied about her academic credentials.) Within two weeks of her op-ed appearing, she was fired from the Institute for the Study of War, though she was hired two weeks later by Senator McCain as a Senate staffer.
At the same time that O’Bagy’s career was taking a hit, the narrative that the Syrian “rebels” were all secular moderates was quickly collapsing. A Rand Corporation study appeared two weeks after O’Bagy’s op-ed saying that nearly half of the Syrian “rebels” were jihadists or hardline Islamists (as if there were a discernible difference). Meanwhile, the FSA was under serious pressure from the very jihadist groups that Ms. O’Bagy had assured were not a problem.
Another practical problem developed with providing weapons to the FSA. As soon as weapons shipments from the CIA were arriving in Syria, the FSA weapons caches were being raided by jihadist groups, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, under very suspicious circumstances. The problem got so bad that by last December, both the U.S. and the UK had stopped weapons shipments to the FSA.
But by April of this year, the Obama adminstration’s CIA weapons spigot was turned back on, with the FSA now receiving heavy weapons, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. And in late June, President Obama asked Congress for $500 million to arm and train the FSA.
This move was not without controversy as the Syrian Military Council chief-of-staff warned that the U.S. was circumventing the SMC and providing weapons directly to FSA units that could end up creating Afghan/Somali-style warlords in Syria. The State Department responded to that criticism by assuring that the weapons were going to “moderate, vetted groups” (because, of course, the State Department has such a long, illustrious history of vetting Islamic “moderates”).
Reports this past week identified two Americans – Douglas McCain from San Diego and Abdiraaman Muhumad from Minneapolis — who were killed by Syrian rebel groups last weekend as they were fighting with ISIS.
A new claim was made on a Syrian rebel Twitter feed this morning saying that an additional three Americans have been killed fighting with ISIS near Ghouta.
A video purporting to show the three dead Americans was posted on Youtube (WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO):
Yet another American from Florida, Moner Mohammad Abusalha, conducted a suicide bombing for Jabhat al-Nusra — the official Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria — back in May.
An article in the current issue of The Economist reports on Western foreign fighters joining jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. The following graphic included in that article estimates that 70 Americans are currently fighting there, though other estimates have indicated that more than one hundred may be in the area.
The Middle East is in full meltdown and the U.S. is rapidly nearing full retreat in the region. But considering the incompetents running our foreign policy, our absence may be best for the Middle East for the moment.
So here’s what’s happening:
Iraq: Last night Prime Minister Maliki gave a speech accusing new President Fuad Masum of violating the constitution as Golden Dawn militias backing Maliki took up strategic positions around Baghdad, including the Green Zone, in an all-out coup. Remarkably, Maliki is accusing Masum of a coup. Maliki’s issue with Masum is that the new president has not selected Maliki for a third term as prime minister. One report said that U.S. forces had to extricate President Masum from the presidential palace when it came under mortar fire from Maliki’s renegades. Let’s not forget the words of President Obama in December 2011, when he declared that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” upon pulling out all remaining U.S. troops.
Islamic State: A coup, of course, is exactly what Iraq needs right now as the terrorist Islamic State continues to push south despite U.S. airstrikes. The terror group is conducting ethnic and religious cleansing of Yahzidis and Christians, creating a staggering humanitarian crisis. Last week the Islamic State forces captured the dam north of Mosul, the largest dam in Iraq which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers described in 2007 as “the most dangerous dam in the world” because of its instability. This is a key strategic asset that will give the Islamic State control of the Tigris River as they push towards Baghdad. The best hope to stall this push is not the Iraqi army, which collapsed several weeks ago when the Islamic State began their offensive, but Kurdish forces. The Islamic State is also preparing to target Saudi intelligence officials as they plan to open a front there, despite the fact that much of their funding has come from Saudi Arabia.
Lebanon: Iraq is not the only place where the Islamic State has launched an offensive. Last week they launched an attack on the Lebanese border town of Arsal, overrunning Lebanese army checkpoints and taking Lebanese soldiers hostage. Arsal is home to a large camp housing refugees from Syria. ISIS took the captives hoping to exchange them for a Syrian Islamist militia commander supported by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State who had been arrested by Lebanese authorities. Although the terrorist groups eventually agreed to withdraw and release their captives, the New York Times quoted one of their commanders saying that the attack forces included the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra (the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate) and the Free Syrian Army – the same Free Syrian Army receiving weapons from the U.S. As I reported here last month, some of those U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army forces have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Lebanon remains without a president as Hezbollah and their March 8 Alliance allies in parliament refuse to elect a president, a position reserved for a Maronite Christian. Syrian refugees now make up one-third of the country’s population, further destabilizing Lebanon.
Charles Lister of the Brookings Institution is a sought-after expert on the jihadist insurgency in Syria. But this morning he decided to wade into the Israel-Hamas conflict, tweeting out this gem:
Missing from Lister’s 140 character analysis, however, is the fact that missiles from Hamas-controlled Gaza have been raining down on Israel all year, with 450 launched so far in 2014 — 250 of those within the past week and 80 yesterday alone. Fully 40 percent of Israel’s population — 3.5 million — live within range of missile strikes from Gaza. The vast majority of missiles launched from Gaza end up hitting non-military targets.
Of particular concern is that Hamas has been the recipient of longer-range missiles from Iran, including the Fajr-5 and the M-75, which has an effective range of 75km. This is why Hamas officials were bragging to the media back in March that in any future confrontation that the “heart of Israel” would be targeted. Just days before that boast, Israel stopped a Gaza-bound ship loaded with 40 long-range rockets that could travel as far as 160km (100 miles).
The 1988 Hamas Covenant also invokes a notorious Hadith calling for the genocide of Jews (article 7):
Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).
Lister is currently a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center, which is funded by the State of Qatar. One of the chief architects of the recent rapprochement between Hamas and Iran (on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict) has reportedly been Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah, who visited Iran in late February.
US ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Brigades Surrender Weapons, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic State
The heart of the Obama Administration’s policy to overthrow Assad in Syria has been the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has been provided U.S. taxpayer-financed weapons training, small arms, and, most recently, TOW anti-tank missiles.
This has been done under the pretense that the State Department has carefully selected the FSA as “vetted moderates,” ensuring that those weapons wouldn’t end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Many, including myself, have scoffed at this policy since the State Department has a poor track record in recent decades of identifying “vetted moderates,” expressing concerns that there was never any guarantee those weapons wouldn’t end up in the hands of terror groups.
But reports emerging from Syria confirm those fears stating that FSA brigades in eastern Syria have surrendered their arms and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State announced recently by ISIS:
Sources and eyewitnesses in the border town of al-Bukamal east Syria informed Zaman Alwasl that many factions affiliated with FSA have pledged allegiance with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) amid a huge public attendance, where their weapons have been handed over to “ISIS”.
The source said brigades of Ahl Al Athar, Ibin al-Qa’im, and Aisha have pledged allegiance to the State after clashes that ended quickly for the benefit of ISIS, while the leader of these brigades and factions have fled to the countryside of al-Bukamal into neighboring towns in Deir Ezzor province.
In fairness, the FSA as “vetted moderates” policy has been a laughable bipartisan folly, receiving support from John McCain and Lindsey Graham, among other Republicans.
But past incidents of US-backed FSA weapons caches falling into the hands of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra over the past year have not prompted any reconsideration of this policy. Thus, it is unlikely that this most recent dramatic setback is going to give either the Obama administration or McCain GOP foreign policy orbit a moment of pause.
A prominent Jamaican-born Salafi scholar has been forced to leave Bangladesh for his alleged “extremist” views.
Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips left Dhaka last Wednesday after the Bangladeshi intelligence services requested him to leave the country.
Sharif Abu Hayat Apu, who is the manager of a sister company of Islamic Online University, a global educational institute founded by Dr Bilal Philips, confirmed the cleric’s forced departure.
Philips has been refused entry to the US, Britain, Australia, Germany and Kenya for his “extremist” views. The scholar has been accused of encouraging youths to go on jihad and justifying suicide bombings, claims which he strongly denies.
This would be otherwise unremarkable except for the fact that Bilal Philips was called upon to evangelize US troops in Saudi Arabia with the permission of the Pentagon during Desert Storm.
As author J.M. Berger notes in his book, “Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam,” Philips operated under the auspices of the Royal Saudi Air Force and would later utilize his network of US military Muslim converts in the cause of jihad in Bosnia. In 1995, he was named unindicted co-conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing trial.
In this Youtube video, “Da’wah in Desert Storm,” Bilal Philips talks about his evangelization efforts among American troops.
***UPDATED*** White House announced that Obama has just finally called Sisi.
The favorable treatment Obama previously gave to ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi differs considerably from that given the newly-inaugurated President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
Morsi was inaugurated on June 30, 2012. Obama called to congratulate him nearly a week before on June 24 when the election results were announced.
But two days after Sisi’s inauguration, still no phone call from the “Smart Diplomacy” president.
From yesterday’s State Department press briefing:
QUESTION: Has Secretary Kerry been in contact with his counterpart over the weekend in Egypt?
MS. HARF: Let me check. He has not.
QUESTION: And President Obama – he hasn’t called General Sisi, has he?
MS. HARF: No. And the call – as we’ve said, the President’s obviously been traveling. White House will have more details on timing, but should be happening soon.
QUESTION: Because President Obama did call President Morsi back when he won the election, correct?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And President – I would assume so. I don’t remember. But the President will call him. Again, we look forward to working with him, and sometimes schedules just make these things tough to get people on the phone.
Six days ago the administration said that Obama would be calling Sisi “in the coming days.” The excuse given was that Obama was traveling, because we all know that the president of the United States would never travel with a phone.
Exit question: Is it “smart diplomacy” to snub the newly elected leader of the largest Arab country on the planet and, over the past three decades, one of our closest partners in the Middle East?
I was very sad to hear this morning of the passing of our friend and PJ Media contributor Barry Rubin following a 17 month battle with cancer. I know for many of us our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
It has truly been a privilege to call Barry a colleague, a mentor and a friend. When Barry was living in the U.S. several years ago, we would have lunch together every time I was in D.C. at his favorite Chinese restaurant in Bethesda. Always generous with his time, we would have lengthy conversations about recent Middle East events over cashew chicken. Even at the time I would marvel at how much I would learn from those lunch discussions.
After his return to Israel, we would keep in touch by email, with Barry regularly offering encouragement and advice for whatever endeavor I happened to be working on at the time. We would find time to meet whenever he was in the States on a speaking tour or for a conference.
Then came the cancer diagnosis. That notwithstanding, Barry continued with his work.
This past July, Barry and his son served as reenactors at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. I brought a group of friends, mostly reporters and Hill staff, up for the day. Finding Barry amidst thousands of blue-garbed reenactors was like finding a specific needle in a stack of needles, but find him we did. Again, always generous with his time, he plopped down under a tree and gave us an impromptu half-hour briefing of what was happening in Egypt (Morsi had been removed from office the day before) and how it would play out in the Middle East.
I was fortunate enough to see Barry again in September while I was in Israel. I arrived at the Rubins’ apartment in Tel Aviv literally just moments after they had received devastating news that the cancer had advanced. It would have been understandable if they had cancelled plans for the evening. And yet Barry was undeterred, and we walked to a cafe nearby where we had a very candid and personal conversation about mortality. He expressed concern for the care of his family and how much they meant to him.
It was a pleasant surprise a week later as I was beginning to tour Yad Vashem in Jerusalem when I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to see Barry and his family. We walked together though the museum until Barry grew tired. We met later for dinner, and his wife Judy and son Daniel were gracious as I occupied Barry’s time with shop-talk. That was the last time I saw him.
It is impossible to measure how much PJ Media and its readers have benefited from Barry’s insights and how the world will continue to benefit from his whole body of work (with books by and edited by Barry still forthcoming). I know that over the next few days others who knew Barry better and longer will offer more substantial remembrances. But as I get ready for this cold, rainy day in Washington, D.C. I will be thinking today about my colleague, mentor and friend; the kindness, forbearance, graciousness and wisdom he was always willing to impart to me; and offering prayers of comfort for his family.
May his memory be a blessing.
Human rights groups are calling for a UN fact-finding mission to Pakistan following the discovery of multiple mass graves in Balochistan province this past weekend. Pakistan’s army has been accused of atrocities bordering on genocide, with thousands of Baloch, including scores of independence activists, being “disappeared” in recent years.
Just hours after President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address, Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) took to the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday raising questions of why the US continues to provide millions in aid to Pakistan each year while engaged in these atrocities. He reads from a Toronto Sun oped by Tarek Fatah on this issue published earlier this week. (Also revisit my past reports here at PJ Tatler on our Pakistani “ally” in the War on Terror.)
Here’s the video of Rep. Gohmert’s remarks:
Yesterday I reported from the National World War Two Memorial on several members of Congress crashing the barricades set up by the National Park Service that were keeping out several hundred Honor Flight veterans — many of whom were WW2 veterans — from visiting their own memorial. The Park Service claimed that the memorial and the entire National Mall area had to be closed because of the government shutdown.
The same scene was reenacted again today as two Honor Flights from Missouri and Chicago arrived in prearranged visits. These Honor Flights were met by hundreds of ordinary citizens and about a dozen members of Congress, who once again crashed the barricades to let the veterans into the WW2 Memorial.
After about an hour, about 20 protesters arrived on the scene chanting “Boehner, get us back to work” and claiming they were federal employees furloughed because of the shutdown.
In the video below these protesters were marching towards the press gaggle and I was asking them to show their federal IDs to prove they were in fact federal workers. No one wore their federal ID and none would provide it to prove their claim.
Then, remarkably, a guy carrying a sign passed by wearing a McDonald’s employee shirt, which I noted. I then began asking them how much they had been paid to protest, at which point the guy wearing the McDonald’s shirt came back and admitted he had been paid $15.
About a minute later a protest organizer ran up to me telling me that the man in question is a contractor working at the McDonald’s in a Smithsonian Museum — a claim she made no effort to prove. The same story was told to Jake Tapper at CNN who was on the scene and made the same inquiry.
And yet that doesn’t explain why he was paid $15 to attend a protest targeting our nation’s honored military veterans.
UPDATE: Huffington Post reporter Arthur Delaney states that the protest was organized by a group called “Good Jobs Nation,” not SEIU as I previously reported, and that, remarkably, the protesters weren’t even federal employees at all but individuals who WORK in federal buildings affected by the shutdown.
Delaney and his HuffPo colleague Ryan J. Reilly have attacked me on Twitter, speculating on what the McDonald’s employee, Luis Chiliquinga, really thought, and chastising me for my editorial standards in reporting on what I recorded. The video speaks for itself.
The group formed about six months ago as a coalition of like-minded labor groups. Its funding comes largely from unions, including the Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Farm Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers, according to organizers.
So they were, in fact, a SEIU rent-a-mob
WAPO adds this:
The group held its first demonstration in May, when service workers at federal buildings walked off the job to protest their wages.
So they voluntarily walk off the job to protest, then complain when Congress gives them extra free time to get some extra scratch from the SEIU and Teamsters to protest.
ConMom has more on “Good Jobs Nation”.
Two Freedom Flights of veterans, one from Iowa and another from Mississippi, arrived in D.C. today to visit their war memorials, but were halted by barricades. Many of the veterans served in World War II and in Korea. As Bryan Preston noted in an earlier post, several House GOP members intervened to make sure those vets could visit the World War II Memorial.
I happened to be driving by, and received a phone call from a congressional staffer telling me what was going on. I caught some of the scene on video just as several busloads of Freedom Flight vets were about to leave.
In this first video, Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN-6) describes the sequence of events leading to the members of Congress intervening:
Here, Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-1) explains why he and his colleagues crashed the Park Service barricades:
Needless to say, the Park Service was not happy. This spokeswoman, who didn’t explain why she hadn’t been furloughed, tried her best to castigate the members of Congress without appearing cold-hearted:
She explained that any enforcement action taken against the congressmen will have to be decided by her political-appointee bosses.
NextGenerationTV’s Michelle Fields tweets that Park Police have shown up on the scene to expel any remaining vets.
Some interesting and provocative discussions during Day 2 of the World Summit on Counter Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel (my Day 1 overview is here). Some of the highlights from the second day of proceedings:
A report released at the conference announced an estimate that the Assad regime in Syria has 1,000 tons of chemical weapons.
Syracuse professor William Banks offered his assessment, in line with one offered the previous day, that while the Syrian regime may have violated international law with the use of chemical weapons (even though they are not a signatory to the chemical weapons convention), the remedies do not include the use of force, much as President Obama is proposing.
Qanta Ahmed warned against the virulence of Islamist ideology, claiming it was more dangerous than nuclear weapons, and stressed the importance of moderate Muslims unmasking the “wolves in sheeps’ clothing,” i.e., so-called “moderate” Islamists.
Undoubtedly the most lively discussion of the day involved Canadian columnist and author Tarek Fatah. During his speech, which you can see in the clip below, he notes that missing from much of the debate over the use of chemical weapons by Syria, and even Iran’s budding nuclear program, is that Pakistan already possesses 100+ nuclear weapons.
Fatah also added that two of the top Islamic partners in the “war on terror,” Turkey and Pakistan, are among the biggest purveyors of the jihadist ideology we are confronting globally (Saudi Arabia could also be added to that list).
Brian Jenkins of RAND Corp noted the diminishing effectiveness of strikes aimed at decapitating terrorist organizations. According to his research, a terrorist group that suffers decapitation in the first year of its existence is 8.5 times more likely to disintegrate than if the leadership continues; after 10 years existence, that rate is cut in half; by 20 years (al-Qaeda would fall in this category) the effect of a leadership decapitation strike is negligible.
Jenkins also added that it appears the West is headed towards a permanent state of war with Islamic terrorism.
King’s College professor Peter Neumann said that the number of foreign jihadist fighters traveling to Syria is higher than any other conflict previously seen, which will pose a considerable threat to Western countries down the road.
Former FBI and Treasury official Matt Levitt talked about his new book on the Lebanon-based Hezbollah. He noted that many Hezbollah plots have a U.S. nexus.
Levitt also predicted that regardless of who comes out on top in Syria (Hezbollah is actively fighting on behalf of the Iranian-backed Assad regime), Hezbollah will come out the loser. Gone is their status as “freedom fighters” now that they are waging widespread warfare outside of their own country, severely damaging their credibility.
Thomas Hegghammer from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment reported that there are 4,000-5,000 foreign fighters now operating in Syria. He also added that despite much of the jihadist activity around the world, the threats to Western countries — including the U.S. — are still primarily coming out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy offered the most provocative thesis of the day, saying that “there has to be a revolution in law and jurisprudence” when it comes to terrorism. In the clip below, he says that rather than having government continuing to run to the courts to see what judges will allow, the process needs to be reversed, with governments telling judges and courts what results are needed and leaving it to the courts to find a way to get there:
I will be traveling to the Syrian border by the Golan Heights tomorrow, missing the last day of the conference. But I’ll be providing a report following that trip.
As I noted in my previous post, I’m reporting from the 2013 World Summit on Counter Terrorism in Herliya, Israel. The first day’s session was entirely in Hebrew with translation via earphones (rendering my recorder irrelevant), so I’m going to rely on translations from the Israeli media to cover the highlights.
The keynote speaker was Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who said that Israel would stay out of the Syria crisis unless “red lines were transgressed,” meaning retaliatory attacks directed at Israel in the event of a U.S. attack. Included in those “red lines” would also be transferring chemical weapons to Hezbollah.
But he also warned that inaction by the U.S. would also have consequences. This is particularly interesting, as the conference falls six years after Israel launched an attack on Syria’s nuclear weapons development facility.
As the Times of Israel noted, most of Ya’alon’s speech was directed at challenging Western misconceptions of the region and expressing skepticism at the efforts to bring democracy to the Arab world. Of particular note was the aspirations of the Palestinians to form a state:
One of the most incredible things in a period when the notion of the nation-state is collapsing before our eyes is that there are those who are trying to advance, in one way or another, the founding of yet another nation-state — even as it remains unclear how the people of Jenin are connected to the people of Hebron, and uncertain that there is a common denominator between those in Judea and Samaria and those in Gaza.
Former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit noted the incompatibility between Western norms and the intentions of jihadists in the fight against terrorism:
Western culture espouses the values of tolerance and acceptance of the other, but radical Islam is not willing to accept the other and according to its perception the “infidels” must die. Since the West places an emphasis on morality, it tries to fight terrorism while its hands are tied. The tension between the need for security and morality is also expressed by means of preventing and combating terrorism. With technological developments I predict that eventually the technology will evolve into an effective tool in fighting terrorism, but until that development will come, terrorism will have already been at work in the non-conventional arena.
A remarkable statement by former Israeli National Security Council director Uzi Arad not only questioned the effectiveness of a U.S. strike against Syria, but also its legality under international law (a point also made during today’s session by Syracuse University professor William Banks):
Syria is not a signatory to international conventions against the use of chemical weapons. You cannot say that Assad violated an international convention Syria is not signed onto.
I find it hard to believe that intervention will bring about a substantially better situation. The best thing now would be for Obama to carefully bring the crisis to an end, without creating negative ramifications in the region and the world, whether before or after an attack.
One personal observation from my interactions the past two days with Israeli officials: not a one has had a positive thing to say about President Obama.
I hope to post more thoughts later.
I’m in Israel this week for the 2013 World Summit on Counter Terrorism sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk at length with my friend and colleague Avi Melamed about ongoing events in the region.
In this first audio clip, Avi and I discuss Syria, jihadists in the Sinai and the tectonic shifts occurring throughout the Middle East:
In this second clip we talk about Hamas and other jihadists in Gaza, how the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has caused a crisis for Hamas, and how PA President Mahmoud Abbas is taking advantage of his rival’s crisis:
In this third and last clip we conclude with a discussion of the regional situation and its effect on Israel’s security:
I’m traveling in the Middle East this month and will be reporting on my trip here at PJ Media. Among my first stops during this trip was a visit on Saturday to Nazareth, the traditional home of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and after their return from Egypt, the home of the Holy Family. Today Nazareth is known at “the Arab capital of Israel” due to the large number of Arab Muslims and Christians living there.
Undoubtedly the top tourist spot in Nazareth is the Basilica of the Annunciation, where traditionally Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel recorded in Luke 1: 26-38. The Basilica is built over the ruins of two previous churches, built in 427 and 1187, both of which were destroyed by Islamic occupiers, and the buried remains of the ancient Nazareth. Recently, the first house from the Jewish settlement from the first century was was announced by archeologists.
As I discovered yesterday, on the street traversed by hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims each year who must climb the street from the bus parking lot up to the basilica are greeted by several banners prominently displayed just yards from the entrance of the church.
As you can see in the photo below, the banners bear Quranic insults directed at the Christian pilgrims traveling to the basilica taken from Sura 3:
3:85 – And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.
3:64 – Say, “O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah .” But if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].”
3:51 – [Jesus said] Indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him alone. That is the straight path.
When I asked about it, my tour guide said that not long ago the building bore the black Al-Qaeda flag – not more than 50 yards from one of the holiest Christian sites in the Holy Land. He added that he speakers seen in the picture blare Islamic prayers throughout the day. You can see the dome of the basilica immediately above.
At the top of the hill above the basilica the Saudis recently built a gold-domed mosque that is just slightly taller than the top of the Christian school next door. Interfaith outreach in the hometown of Jesus.
The Greek tragic dramatist Aeschylus once wrote that “in war, truth is the first casualty.” We can see that casualty in the drumbeats for war by the Democrat Left and the Obama administration over Syria during the past week.
It was just a few years ago when Democrats were hailing Assad as a “reformer” and someone the U.S. could work with to bring stability to the Middle East (looking at you John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi). Alas, it seems now, they’ve changed their tune. The new one has a heavier drumbeat.
Now we have MSNBC bringing their fact-free analysis in support of this Democrat warmongering chorus in an article by Aliyah Frumin published this morning titled “In Syria debate, little mention of rebels,” in which she launches this dud SCUD:
In Syria, the religious dynamic is particularly acute as Assad –a secular Sunni — is under attack mostly from religious Shia groups with varied interests and outside support. It is unknown which groups, if any, may be affiliated politically with elements in Shia-ruled Iran, Saudi Arabia or even Hezbollah in Lebanon.
If the U.S. administration knows more about the rebels, it isn’t sharing much with the public.
In fact, Assad is an Alawite, which is a sect of Twelver Shia, not a secular Sunni. And he is receiving support, not being attacked by, his longtime Shia allies Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon. It isn’t clear if Ms. Frumin also is trying to lump the Saudis in with this Shia alliance supposedly attacking Assad, but the Saudis are most decidedly Sunni. And they are heavily funding and arming the Sunni Islamists trying to bring down the Assad regime. I doubt Al Jazeera America would have made the same mistake.
Perhaps before the media and political establishment throw us into a regional religious war in the Middle East over weapons of mass destruction, they should first be required to disarm themselves of their own weapons of misinformation? And maybe Ms. Frumin is better suited to the Miley Cyrus beat instead of the Middle East.
I was pleased to appear on a panel with Erick Stakelbeck of CBN News and Ryan Mauro of the Clarion Project and Worldthreats that aired today and that we taped last Tuesday prior to the escalation of violence in Egypt on Wednesday. We talked about what’s next for the Muslim Brotherhood and the future prospects for the region.
The panel is the first 10 minutes of the program.
Stunning details emerging from the court martial of Maj. Nidal Hasan implicating the US Army brass in refusing to address Hasan’s evident extremism. Perhaps that’s why the judge in the case yesterday refused to admit prosecution evidence proving Hasan’s jihadist motives — to protect the military from their nonfeasance.
As Bill Gertz noted in a frontpage Washington Times article two months after the attack, myself and two of my colleagues had warned the entire US Army Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection command at their annual conference about internal jihadist threats, giving them all the radicalization indicators save Hasan’s name, rank and serial number. And then there’s Hasan’s infamous powerpoint presentation, which he gave more than two dozen times to military audiences, where he warned of “adverse events” if Muslims in the military weren’t granted conscientious objector status to avoid killing other Muslims in violation of Islamic law (killing infidels was apparently OK). In that presentation he noted past incidents of fratricide, desertion to the enemy, and refusal to deploy as examples of such “adverse events”.
NPR noted today a meeting held by senior Walter Reed officials in 2008, more than a year before the Ft Hood massacre, to discuss the problems related to Hasan:
When a group of key officials gathered in the spring of 2008 for their monthly meeting in a Bethesda, Md., office, one of the leading — and most perplexing — items on their agenda was: What should we do about Hasan?
Hasan had been a trouble spot on officials’ radar since he started training at Walter Reed, six years earlier. Several officials confirm that supervisors had repeatedly given him poor evaluations and warned him that he was doing substandard work.
Both fellow students and faculty were deeply troubled by Hasan’s behavior — which they variously called disconnected, aloof, paranoid, belligerent, and schizoid. The officials say he antagonized some students and faculty by espousing what they perceived to be extremist Islamic views. His supervisors at Walter Reed had even reprimanded him for telling at least one patient that “Islam can save your soul.”
Participants in the spring meeting and in subsequent conversations about Hasan reportedly included John Bradley, chief of psychiatry at Walter Reed; Robert Ursano, chairman of the Psychiatry Department at USUHS; Charles Engel, assistant chair of the Psychiatry Department and director of Hasan’s psychiatry fellowship; Dr. David Benedek, another assistant chairman of psychiatry at USUHS; psychiatrist Carroll J. Diebold; and Scott Moran, director of the psychiatric residency program at Walter Reed, according to colleagues and other sources who monitor the meetings.
NPR tried to contact all these officials and the public affairs officers at the institutions. They either didn’t return phone calls or said they could not comment.
But psychiatrists and officials who are familiar with the conversations, which continued into the spring of 2009, say they took a remarkable turn: Is it possible, some mused, that Hasan was mentally unstable and unfit to be an Army psychiatrist?
And here’s the punchline:
One official involved in the conversations had reportedly told colleagues that he worried that if Hasan deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, he might leak secret military information to Islamic extremists. Another official reportedly wondered aloud to colleagues whether Hasan might be capable of committing fratricide, like the Muslim U.S. Army sergeant who, in 2003, killed two fellow soldiers and injured 14 others by setting off grenades at a base in Kuwait.
And yet his superiors did nothing. And for good reason. If anyone had actually taken action against Maj. Hasan, they would have been drummed out of the Army for religious discrimination. As Gen. Casey said days after the attack, “as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” And the cost of that “diversity” was fourteen souls.
The media war rages alongside the real war in Egypt. I posted earlier about the Muslim Brotherhood supporters who had taken refuge in the Fatah mosque in Cairo that ended up being surrounded by police.
Someone just sent me a short video clip with some footage by AlJazeera that was taken inside the mosque yesterday that should be noted.
In the video below, you can see what is supposed to be an “victim” of the violence laying on the mosque floor either unconscious or dead. And yet when the medic lifts his bloodied shirt and mistakenly shows that the man has no injuries, the “unconscious” man quickly uses his opposite leg to knock the medic’s arm away from his shirt.
The tradition of Pallywood in the Middle East continues.
UPDATE: It seems that the “victim” is Morsi aide/photographer Amar Gomaa:
I was up until the wee hours of the morning today watching news and following my Twitter feed about the few hundred Morsi loyalists who were trapped by Egyptian police in the Fatah Mosque in Cairo.
As an acknowledgement to the “fog of war,” at one point Daily Telegraph reporter Ruth Sherlock claimed on Twitter that the army had stormed the mosque. And yet, as I quickly noted, I was watching a live Skype feed from INSIDE the mosque on Alhiwar (a pro-Morsi TV station) at that very moment that clearly showed there was no action being taken at that time. In fairness, there are a lot of reports and rumors circulating. This kind of stuff happens in fluid situations.
A few hours later the police did move in after they came under fire from inside the mosque. Three Reuters reporters were on the scene to provide a first-hand account of what exactly happened.
Amazingly, they recounted in a subsequent article that what appeared to be the the wife of the known Muslim Brotherhood leader was giving the go-ahead to gunmen inside the mosque to begin opening fire on the police below that were trying to negotiate their exit under safe conduct:
Tensions started to run high when a woman wearing a niqab – the full head to toe black veil – tried to walk out of the mosque, said a Reuters witness.
A group of about 10 soldiers had been telling people to leave the mosque and that they would be in no danger.
When the woman approached them, people in the mosque could be overheard saying she was the wife of a Brotherhood leader and was in danger of being arrested. She walked back into the mosque, looked up and said something to a group of pro-Mursi gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
That is when the shooting started.
Again, there were multiple Reuters reporters on the scene. That didn’t prevent CNN’s resident Muslim Brotherhood cheerleader Reza Sayah from claiming that there was no gunfire from the mosque earlier today. And the Western media wonder why Egyptians complain about biased coverage.
Outside the mosque a mob had formed wanting to get at the Morsi loyalists inside. Once the mosque had been cleared, the police had to escort the Muslim Brotherhood supporters through the crowd to safety.
A series of horrific car bombings in Baghdad yesterday have reportedly left more than 80 dead and many more injured. The attacks appeared to target festivities marking the end of Ramadan in Shi’ite neighborhoods, which prompted comment from State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who said in an official statement:
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the cowardly attacks today in Baghdad. These attacks were aimed at families celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorists who committed these acts are enemies of Islam and a shared enemy of the United States, Iraq, and the international community. (HT: Alim Haider)
As horrific as these bombings are, obviously fueled by sectarian differences, it’s troubling to see that the Obama administration has now put the U.S. government in the business of denouncing “enemies of Islam.”
The first reason this development is troubling is the blinding hypocrisy and deliberate selectivity of it all.
As Elizabeth Harrington at CNS News reported last year, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson testified to Congress last year that the violence by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram targeting Christians wasn’t religiously motivated — one day after Boko Haram bombed a church service on Easter Sunday.
Mind you, this is the administration that branded the Muslim Brotherhood a “largely secular” organization. It has taken every effort to purge government national-security documents of any reference tying terrorism to Islam while Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security proscribed training by anyone declaring themselves “Muslim reformers” (while at the same time government contractors tie pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and Tea Party views to “violent extremism”).
Any government employees that observe that Islamic terrorists themselves wrap themselves in the mantle of doctrinal Islam will quickly find themselves without a job. And when members of Congress have confronted senior administration officials as to whether elements of radical Islam have declared war on the U.S., those officials have angrily protested that Congress merely asking such questions puts them in league with al-Qaeda.
Then there’s the constitutional problem. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment requires the U.S. government to remain agnostic on these sorts of questions. It’s doubtful that Jen Psaki is going to be denouncing respective sides in Northern Ireland as “enemies of Christ,” especially when State can’t bring itself to even admit that attacks on Christians by Islamic groups are religiously motivated.
The administration has some serious problems in this regard. If the NYPD showing the documentary The Third Jihad to police officers is a grave constitutional crime, then so too should be the Department of Justice Civil Right Division screening Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think for their employees on government time (not to mention the chutzpah of anyone claiming to know “what a billion Muslims really think”).
Two weeks ago, Muslim Brotherhood leaders from across Africa and the Middle East gathered in Istanbul to regroup following the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, former head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. (Morsi, as I noted previously here, was recruited into the group while studying in the U.S.) But after even more setbacks suffered by the Muslim Brotherhood in a number of countries this past week, another meeting might be in order.
Here’s a rundown of the week’s events:
Egypt: The most prominent example, the MB there rejected calls for reconciliation meetings by the interim government and demanded Morsi’s reinstatement as president before any negotiations. That’s not remotely likely. So that set the stage this week for a game of chicken, with the MB refusing to stand down and Defense Minister Sisi calling for rallies yesterday in support of the interim government, ostensibly to legitimize a crackdown on a terror campaign being waged by Morsi supporters against police and military targets in the Sinai. Of note is the statement last week by a senior MB leader that the terrorist acts would stop when Morsi is reinstated, indicating some degree of MB control over the terror cells.
The result yesterday was massive rallies supporting both sides, predominately backing the new anti-MB government, with as many as 35 million taking the streets in support of the army despite a fatwa issued by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the senior international MB jurist, prohibiting participation in the protests. Those protests led to a series of clashes last night and this morning that have reportedly left dozens dead. Meanwhile, Morsi was charged with murder and other crimes by the new government this week, and will probably be sent to the same prison currently housing former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.
The MB strategy appears to be leveraging the deaths of supporters killed during nearly continuous clashes with the police and army to gain domestic and international sympathy. Yet that doesn’t seem to be happening. Some clashes in which MB supporters were killed have not been with the government, but rather with residents of the areas occupied by the MB protests. And assaults on Egyptian and foreign journalists alike by Morsi supporters and news reports of torture and killing of so-called “infiltrators“ at the MB protests aren’t helping either.
And while the MB might have temporarily taken comfort in the Obama administration’s decision this week to halt the transfer of a few F-16 aircraft to the Egyptian military (though the administration continued such military hardware transfers while Morsi declared himself dictator in November and was killing protesters earlier this year), any hopes of backing their “legitimacy” campaign were dashed when administration officials said that no determination will probably be made as to whether Morsi’s ouster was a coup or not, which would trigger sanctions against the Egyptian military under a law passed by Congress last year.
So the MB doesn’t appear to be gaining support, and the majority of Egyptians appear willing to hold their nose over the violence against the MB while the army and the police attempt to create some stability. The result will be an increase in the violence and more deaths, and the low-grade terrorism in the Sinai will also probably escalate into more acts of terrorism, prompting greater crackdowns.
Gaza: Another big loser in Morsi’s overthrow is the Hamas government in Gaza. In recent weeks the Egyptian military has put a stranglehold on trafficking through tunnels, which provides Hamas with considerable funds. A UN estimate this week said that 80 percent of the traffic through the tunnels running from Egypt into Gaza has been shut down. The Hamas economic minister said the Egyptian crackdown has cost the terror group $230 million – one tenth of the gross domestic product of Gaza. Things aren’t likely to improve with the Egyptian government either, as one of the charges against former President Morsi is collaboration with Hamas in his prison escape back in 2011.
Tunisia: The country was rocked on Thursday by the assassination of political opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi, an open critic of the ruling Ennahda party’s Islamization policies. The assassination outside Brahmi’s home took place on the country’s Republic Day, so many Tunisians were not at work and began gathering around government buildings in protest. The Ennahda office in Sidi Bouzid – the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” – was torched by protesters.
Many in Tunisia are blaming Ennahda for Brahmi’s murder, particularly because of the inability on the part of the government to bring to justice the assassins of Brahmi’s political partner, Chokri Belaid, who was killed back in February. Reports indicated that the same gun used to kill Brahmi had also been used to kill Belaid. Now protesters are calling for the dissolution of the government led by Ennahda.
A government official this week blamed the assassinations on a cell of Ansar al-Shariah, but it’s not likely that Tunisians are going to buy the attempt by Ennahda to distance itself from the jihadist group. In the past, Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi has played a public double game, denouncing Salafists to the Western press, and then colluding with them in private to push Islamization policies. He’s also known for making his own supremacist statements, such as his claim back in November that Islamists would rule the Arab world.
It should be noted that Ghannouchi has been greeted with open arms by top U.S. Islamic groups closely tied to the Obama administration, despite Ghannouchi being subject to a ban on entering the U.S. since the early days of the Clinton administration for terrorist activities until the Obama administration dropped the ban two years ago. Since, he’s been feted on Capitol Hill by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and he was recently the keynote speaker at an event with top Obama Muslim adviser and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) president Mohamed Majid outside D.C.
6:47p It’s after midnight in Cairo and it appears things are quieting down. Today has undoubtedly been an historic day. What the consequence of it will be remains to be seen. We’ll be covering it here for you. But in closing this live blog, let me revisit some of the political and media establishment’s greatest hits over the past few years on engaging the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists in the Middle East:
Bruce Riedel, Brookings Institute:” Muslim Brotherhood is “most reasonable option” for Egypt (Jan 2011)
James Traub, NY Times Magazine and ForeignPolicy.com: Don’t Fear the Brotherhood (Feb 2011)
BBC: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood promotes moderate path (Feb 2011)
Reuters: U.S. to resume formal Muslim Brotherhood relations, officials say (June 2011)
Ed Husain, Council on Foreign Relations: Was Senator Kerry right to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood (hint: he says “yes”) (Dec 2011)
John Kiriakou, former CIA and Huffington Post contributor: Why John Kerry was right to talk to the Muslim Brotherhood (Dec 2011)
Michael Hirsh, national correspondent for National Journal: Can Obama safely embrace Islamists? (hint: yes) (April 2012)
Reuel Marc Gerect, Foundation for Defense of Democracies: The Islamist road to democracy (April 2012)
Also see my article here at PJ Media, “The Three Faces of John McCain on the Muslim Brotherhood.” I could add many more, of course, but you get my drift. Will today’s event cause any self-reflection on the part of the DC political and media establishment? Don’t hold your breath.
Thanks to everyone who followed my live blog today. Hope it was of some benefit to keep track of what was going on.
6:11p Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey, a long-time friend of PJ Media, reports that 4 people have been shot outside the Muslim Brotherhood main headquarters in Muqattam by gunmen inside the MB building.
5:33p Tamarod organizers are calling for another protest on Tuesday.
5:10p The 2nd biggest target of the protests today appears to be US Ambassador Anne Patterson. Her image is almost, but not quite, as ubiquitous as Morsi’s. Here’s just one photo:
4:51p This Al-Ahram video shows the hundreds of thousands outside the presidential palace earlier:
4:47p Department of Homeland Security adviser Mohamed Elibiary tweets dismissively that the Tamarod protests fighting against the fascism of the Muslim Brotherhood.
4:37p Tom Blumer at Newsbusters notes that the US establishment media is ignoring for the most part the anti-Obama, anti-American sentiment of the Tamarod protests.
4:28p 3 anti-Morsi protesters killed in Assiyut when they came under “heavy fire” from Morsi supporters as they were headed to the MB headquarters.
4:06p Game on. Reports are that a large crowd of pro-Morsi supporters are on the move and quite possibly headed towards the presidential palace where there are reports that hundreds of thousands of Tamarod protesters are still there.
3:53p The Ministry of the Interior has estimated the crowd sizes to be 17 million, which makes the NBC News claim of “tens of thousands” absolutely laughable. BBC is also citing the 17 million number.
3:49p Shorouk News has video of what appears to be gunmen on top of a Muslim Brotherhood office (the MB logo can clearly be seen on the building) in Garbiya firing onto the crowd below. Nothing to indicate that the crowd was doing anything remotely threatening.
3:09p NBC is reporting that “tens of thousands” are out protesting against Morsi. Are they delusional or just outright lying?
2:58p Media reports are coming in with estimates of the crowd sizes across Egypt. Al-Masry Al-Youm cites experts that more than 17 million are in the streets today.
2:50p Al-Masry Al-Youm is reporting that a Brotherhood leader has been arrested for firing at the crowd in Beni Suef where at least one anti-Morsi protester was killed.
2:45p No sooner had I written that previous item then Ikhwanweb deleted the tweet and admitted it wasn’t as they represented.
2:41p The Muslim Brotherhood’s official Ikhwanweb gets caught floating fake pictures. They tweeted out this picture earlier claiming it was of a MB supporter killed over the weekend, but in the comments critics note it is an old photo of a Palestinian mother and her dead son.
2:38p Some reports of violence starting to trickle in. Several hundreds protesters are at the Muslim Brotherhood headquareters in Moqqatam where some molotov cocktails have been thrown. In Beni Suef, where the local MB HQ was attacked early this morning, assailants attacks the anti-Morsi protest leaving one dead and 30 injured Al-Ahram is reporting.
2:36p Sky News Arabia has some video of weapons seized from Muslim Brotherhood supporters today.
2:30p Egyptocracy has a running feed of pictures of protests from all over Egypt.
2:27p Prominent Egyptian novelist Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid writes: The Brotherhood has lost the streets. The MB has been a one-trick pony – mass mobilization. Now the other side has responded in spades. What happens now though?
2:11p The crowd in Alexandria is also simply massive.
2:01p This shot of the crowd at Tahrir Square from the Cairo Tower is all over Twitter at the moment.
Can’t find the original source. Picture by Ahmed Harfoush.
1:50p So after a few hours the protests have swelled into the millions up and down Egypt with only isolated incidents of conflict. From all media reports, there are millions in the streets. Even the Muslim Brotherhood’s top international jurist, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, appears to be hedging his bets.
9:36a Multiple media reports that Morsi will be giving an address at 6p Cairo time. I don’t expect any earth-shattering announcement.
9:33a The anti-Morsi and pro-Morsi crowds have been staying apart so far with very few reports of violence. So far, so good.
8:52a It was just over four years ago that Obama gave his infamous speech at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Now this is the sentiment towards America (and Obama’s ambassador Anne Patterson) in Tahrir Square today (from Al-Ahram):
8:33a In about 90 minutes the various protests around Cairo will begin marching to converge at the presidential palace.
8:31a Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon interviews an Egyptian activist highly critical of the Obama administration’s support for the Morsi regime, saying the White House is the “main supporter of the Brotherhood.”
8:24a Aswat Masriya reports that Islamists have blocked all the roads leading to their rally in Nasr City. Dig the picture of all those non-violent Morsi supporters with their sticks and pipes.
8:19a The Wall Street Journal has started their live blogging.
8:04a Egypt Independent reports that Morsi has considered a proposal for Defense Minister al-Sisi to temporarily serve as prime minister for six months. Tamarod leaders have said that any proposal that does not include Morsi’s removal is unacceptable. The report also states that Al-Sisi has given the political players one week to come to an agreement before the army steps in to prevent the country descending in to chaos.
7:44a Al-Ahram reporting that assailants have stormed Ain Shams University, firing at security guards and students. The university has been the site of an anti-Morsi sit-in.
7:37a Al-Ahram is reporting that hundreds of anti-Morsi protesters have closed the road between Cairo and Alexandria.
7:26a Egypt Independent is reporting that 17 members of Gamaa al-Islamiya (a US designated terrorist group) were arrested on their way to the pro-Morsi rally in Nasr City with weapons in their cars.
7:11a Thanks to Instapundit for the shout out.
6:37a Compare and contrast. On the left hand side of this picture is the current scene from the Tamarod protest in Tahrir Square. On the right is the pro-Morsi rally in Nasr City.
6:30a Al-Masry Al-Youm is reporting that an explosion has gone off in an apartment in Bassatine, in old city Cairo, where homemade explosives were being made.
5:58a This El Watan news report (Arabic) says that authorities have recovered 142 grenades and 440 rockets from apartments near Tahrir Square.
5:53a This article gives the perspective of the Muslim Brotherhood/Salafis backing Morsi of today’s events: The view from the palace window
5:42a Al-Ahram is reporting that the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party headquarters in Beni Suef has been torched and that thousands are out in the governorate. Beni Suef is about 70 miles south of Cairo.
5:25a It’s still hours before the scheduled protest in Tahrir Square (4p Cairo time), but watching the live feed the crowd already seems pretty energized.
5:20a Reuters: Egypt protests set for showdown, violence feared
5:18a Thanks to Mandy Nagy at Legal Insurrection for the shout out.
5:10a The Tamarod protests are not scheduled until later this afternoon Cairo time, but you can see from current pictures from Tahrir Square that crowds are already starting to gather.
5:06a Another black mark on Morsi’s first year in office was the beating and torture of anti-Morsi protesters by Muslim Brotherhood goon squads right outside the presidential palace gates. According to Human Rights Watch, 11 were killed and hundreds of others injured.
4:53a In an interview with The Guardian yesterday, Morsi rejected calls for new elections.
4:49a This short Al Jazeera video chronicles the troubled year since Morsi took power.
4:37a For an idea of the loathing of the Obama administration by the secular forces in Egypt, take a look at the pic heading this McClatchy article of US Ambassador Anne Patterson’s picture being burned at an anti-Morsi protest on Friday. Patterson has not only been meeting with top members of the Morsi regime in recent weeks but also senior Muslim Brotherhood members. Her June 18th speech in Cairo defending the Obama adminsitration’s relations with the Morsi regime didn’t go over well either.
4:26a Washington Post this morning: Egyptian group accuses U.S. of backing Morsi on eve of nationwide protest rallies
3:58a As a reminder, much of this crisis came about last November when Morsi claimed dictator’s powers and said he was above the law in order to push through an Islamist constitutional referendum. He didn’t annul the decree until several weeks later, still holding onto some dictator’s powers, and just days before the questionable referendum was held.
3:34a The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that a US Marine rapid reaction force is on standby for today’s Tamarod protest in Egypt, in stark contrast to Benghazi:
U.S. military officials said commanders ordered on alert a Marine crisis-response force located in Italy and Spain. Military commanders also put the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, whose ships are in the region, on alert.
The crisis-response task force is split between Moron, Spain, and Sigonella, Italy and consists of about 550 Marines. A marine expeditionary unit typically consists of 2,200 Marines and includes fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
A military official said U.S. Central Command is monitoring the situation in Cairo and has been in regular contact with the State Department. But there has been no official order for an evacuation or to prepare for one, military officials said.
3:01a Here’s an article in today’s LA Times on the preparations made by Islamist groups preparing to counter the Tamarod protests:
Many among the hundreds of Islamists gathered beneath a scorching sun read the Koran, marched with sticks past flags of jihad and pledged their loyalty to President Mohamed Morsi, whose rule has sharply divided the nation.
Some in the crowd Saturday chanted fiery rhetoric, others wore hard hats as if awaiting battle and scores retreated to tents in the shade, where they prayed and talked politics beyond the gates of a mosque not far from the presidential palace. They all sensed that trouble was coming and that the days ahead would define the future of Egypt.
2:46a The Prosecutor General for the Morsi regime has launched an investigation into the leaders of the Tamarod movement and political opposition figures for “incitement to overthrow the regime.”
2:39a There was also a pro-Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood protest yesterday in New York City. Here’s the Facebook page with pics.
2:35a Here is a report with some pics and video from the Tamarod/Rebel protest in Washington DC yesterday.
2:30a Here’s the report on that car caught coming through the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt with weapons:
Egyptian security forces have seized on Saturday a vehicle loaded with five Grad missiles in North Sinai’s city of Rafah which borders the Gaza Strip, before a security officer was killed in the area.
“The car was carrying five Grad rockets, a number of grenades, land mines and machine guns,” a source told Xinhua.
Border security forces at a checkpoint suspected two vehicles passing through the mountain area in North Sinai and shot at both. They managed to seize one as the other escaped, said the source.
2:13a The Committee to Protect Journalists warns that the Morsi regime has warned media outlets they may be shut down today:
Egypt’s Ministry of Investment sent notice today to all satellite television channels warning they will be shut down if the government deems that their coverage of this weekend’s political protests incites violence, insults individuals, or contradicts societal values, news reports said. Numerous journalists are also facing new legal threats in the two days since President Mohamed Morsi blasted independent media in his national address, according to Egyptian news reports, which also described the abduction of an editor.
1:51a Hearing from locals that a car was intercepted coming thru the Rafah border crossing from Hamas-controlled Gaza into Egypt carrying five Grad rockets, hand grenades, land mines and automatic weapons. Will provide a link once I have it.
12:20a Roger Simon tweets out this article: Egyptians protesting Morsi accuse US government of supporting Islamists
12:18a Just a reminder that back in March, the State Department authorized shipment of 140,000 teargas canisters to the Morsi regime. That’s in addition to the F-16s and 200 M1 Abrams tanks being given by the Obama administration to the Egyptian military.
12:13a Rick Moran here at PJ Tatler yesterday: Marines on alert in advance of Egypt protests
11:55p Sam Tadros from the Hudson Institute sends this video of Muslim Brotherhood cadres training with helmets, shields and long sticks for today’s Islamist counter-protests:
11:37p It’s past sunrise in Cairo, and I’ll be live blogging the Tamarod/Rebel protests all over Egypt targeting President Mohamed Morsi here all Sunday and live tweeting at my Twitter account. All times ET.
For some background on today’s protests, here’s some background reading and links to their Twitter accounts:
Betsy Hiel, Middle East correspondent for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review: Egyptian liberals, moderates angry over American support for Muslim Brotherhood
Editor’s Note: PJ Media contributor Patrick Poole is the author of the Middle East Review for International Affairs (MERIA) article “Blind to Terror: The U.S. Government’s Disastrous Muslim Outreach and the Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy,” which was published earlier this month.
Steve Emerson and John Rossomando of the Investigative Project reported last night that Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), was received by senior Obama administration officials in the White House on June 13:
Bin Bayyah’s website claims that he met June 13 with senior Obama administration officials at the White House.
Nonetheless, it was the Obama administration which sought the meeting with Bin Bayyah, his website’s account said.
“We asked for this meeting to learn from you and we need to be looking for new mechanisms to communicate with you and the Association of Muslim Scholars (another name used for the IUMS),” Gayle Smith, senior director of the National Security Council, reportedly said.
Bin Bayyah’s June 13 account placed other senior officials in the meeting, including: Rashad Hussain, the U.S. special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and White House spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri. But the account was later changed to delete the reference to Donilon’s presence at the meeting.
Smith also thanked Bin Bayyah for “his efforts to bring more understanding amongst humanity” during the meeting, the Bin Bayyah account said.
The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comments between June 14 and Tuesday.
Bin Bayyah posted a picture of himself in the White House on his website:
Obama’s OIC envoy Rashad Hussain and other top Islamic advisers to the president, including ISNA president Mohamed Magid, traveled to Mauritania last year (where slavery is still openly practiced) to confer with bin Bayyah.
What’s even more remarkable about bin Bayyah’s White House reception is that he was one of the clerics endorsing a IUMS fatwa in November 2004 authorizing the killing of Americans in Iraq. Bin Bayyah was vice president of the organization at the time. The IUMS fatwa was even promoted on the official Iraqi resistance website.
More recently, bin Bayyah capitalized on the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last September to appeal to Western governments to criminalize defamation of Islam (a call seconded by some U.S. Islamic organizations), as the administration began pushing the bogus “YouTube video” justification for the attack:
We are extremely concerned with a small active minority in your countries that seeks to perpetuate a state of conflict and war.
We estimate that such objectives do not serve the general interest. Therefore, it is our hope that you reconsider and criminalize the denigration of religious symbols, as such provocations do not serve the principles of free speech, principles that you and us both seek to uphold.
It should be noted that this White House visit is not bin Bayyah’s first trip to Washington D.C. In April 2011, bin Bayyah was feted on Capitol Hill by Obama advisers Mohamed Majid and Hamza Yusuf, who were ironically holding a session on “Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism from a Theological Perspective.” The event was sponsored by Obama administration outreach-partner organization Muflehun.
Bin Bayyah was also the keynote speaker at a May 2012 Georgetown University symposium with Mohamed Majid and IUMS board member Jamal Badawi. I have previously noted that Badawi is a foreign cleric who is known to have raised money for terrorist organizations and openly supports terrorist organizations, and yet is still let into the country by the Department of Homeland Security.
Emerson and Rossomando also note that bin Bayyah is deputy of the international Muslim Brotherhood’s senior jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi, aka the “Theologian of Terror,” who is the president of IUMS and was the first Sunni cleric to issue a fatwa endorsing suicide bombings back in 1994. As a result of his terror endorsements, Qaradawi has been banned from the United States since 1999.
A surprising exchange yesterday on Meet the Press yesterday with guests departing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Chuck Todd asked the Joint Chiefs Chairman if there were any lessons learned from the Benghazi debacle, which elicited a shocking admission:
TODD: And is there anything that could have been done better on the intelligence front, you think that could have given you more time to do something or is this something that, you know, this is– this is what happens in a place like Libya that right now is an unstable state?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, we– we’ve learned a lot from the Benghazi incident. And we– as the Secretary said, we work with the State Department and, you know, kind of surveying those parts of the world where– where there’s a new norm, if you will, of– of instability in terms of, you know, discussing the intelligence apparatus. It’s pretty easy to talk about the intelligence failures. We don’t talk much about them many times when we have intelligence and we’re able to stop or prevent, disrupt an attack so, of course, we should continue to learn from these events.
A “new norm of instability”? Wait, what? Why didn’t we hear about this during the presidential campaign? Whatever might have prompted this “new norm of instability”?
Fortunately, they returned to the topic a few minutes later with Chairman Dempsey and Secretary Panetta identifying exactly what the source was of this “new norm of instability” that Dempsey was referring to:
TODD: General Dempsey, is AQIM here, al Qaeda in North Africa, the number one national security threat in the United States?
GEN. DEMPSEY: No, I wouldn’t describe them as the number one national security threat, but they– they’re a threat that is localized, becoming regionalized and left unaddressed, will become a global threat. By the way, to the secretary’s point and yours about did we miss something here, let’s think about what’s changed over the last three or four years in that region. The– the regimes that used to maintain control over that space that would in fact be part of the solution of keeping al Qaeda and its affiliates at bay, are no longer there. The Arab Spring has stripped that away. And what we’ve got is a period of ungoverned space, or we have a– I mean, the period at which– at which geography is less governed than it used to be. That’s why this has become a– a near term problem.
TODD: You know, he brings up the Arab Spring, Secretary Panetta. This is the– the issue here of what is our policy, North Africa and the Middle East? Is it stability or is it democracy? We’ve been on the side of these democratic movements in Libya, in Egypt, but it’s brought instability and it’s brought more danger.
MR. PANETTA: Well, that’s what change is all about. And that’s what we’re seeing in– in that part of the world, is a tremendous amount of change. I mean, our– our hope is that– that change can move in the direction of providing greater democracy and greater stability. That’s what you hope for, for these countries. That’s what you hope for– for the people.
TODD: It’s less stable in other way.
MR. PANETTA: But well, there– there is instability associated with change, and that’s what we’re seeing in these key countries and that’s what’s creating some of the opening that General Dempsey talked about.
So the Obama administration now openly admits that the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ is the source of this “new norm of instability”.
Did I miss this two years ago when all of the administration officials were praising the ‘Arab Spring’, that it was going to lead to greater instability, which Chairman Dempsey explains is a “near-term problem” for American national security, and that our assistance in overthrowing Arab dictators was going to lift the lid on Islamic extremism? What’s that? They never mentioned it once?
But a front page article in Sunday’s Washington Post on the resurgence of Al-Qaeda indicates that this “new norm of instability” was not anticipated by the administration that was quick to declare the defeat of Al-Qaeda after the death of Osama bin Laden:
After bin Laden was killed in May 2011, senior U.S. officials including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta described the group as being on the verge of strategic defeat. Since then, a series of unexpected developments have extended the network’s life span.
In particular, al-Qaeda franchises have gained strength in regions touched by the Arab Spring. The popular uprisings that toppled autocratic governments across the Middle East also weakened the grip of security services that had kept extremist forces in check. Civil wars in Syria and Libya provided local militants with weapons, experience and popular legitimacy.
“What we’re seeing in North Africa and Syria is an unfortunate result of Arab Spring,” said Seth Jones, a Rand Corp. analyst and former consultant to the Pentagon on counterterrorism.
Islamists in those countries are only nominally tied to al-Qaeda, and most are focused on local causes. But their resurgence threatens Western interests in the region and perhaps beyond, Jones said.
Western governments already are warning of increased threats to embassies, businesses and tourists in the region. In France, where 10 percent of the population is of North African descent, security officials are bracing for the possibility of retaliatory strikes in response to its military action in Mali against militants linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the affiliate in North Africa’s Sahara and Sahel regions.
The Arab Spring “freed up people, resources and energy,” while attracting foreign jihadists who gave local organizations a more international character, said Mike Shurken, a former CIA analyst.
“We’re seeing evidence of internationalization of these local groups, particularly AQIM,” Shurken said. “They are evolving rapidly and perhaps finally becoming the thing that people were fearing: a group with an international agenda.”
Regular PJMedia readers won’t be surprised by these developments since you’re reading Barry Rubin, Andy McCarthy, myself and others. But I ask again, why didn’t we hear ANY of this from the establishment media before November’s election? Did the fatal Benghazi debacle catch the administration off guard, or was the establishment media protecting their boyfriend Barack to get him over the November election finish line before it all started coming apart and they would be forced to cover it?
This afternoon at a White House ceremony, Obama announced that his nominee for CIA Director will be ‘Jihad’ John Brennan, his current counterterrorism adviser.
Back in June, I profiled Brennan here at PJ Media. Some of ‘Jihad’ John’s recent highlights include:
April 2008: Brennan tells the New York Times that US government official must stop “Iran-bashing”
Feb 2010: Brennan attacks critics of Obama Admin’s handling of “underwear bomber” Abdulmutallab as a criminal, not a terrorist, saying that critics are “serving the goals of Al-Qaeda”
May 2010: Brennan says he wants to build up “Hezbollah moderates”
May 2010: Brennan defends ‘Jihad’ as a ‘legitimate tenet of Islam’
June 2010: Washington Times editorial slams Brennan, saying, “President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser knows very little about terrorism, and that’s scary for America.”
Aug 2010: Brennan storms out of meeting with Washington Times editorial staff after he claims he was misquoted by newspaper and editor begins reading Brennan’s own quotes back to him out loud
Sept 2010: Known HAMAS operative given escorted tour of National Counterterrorism Center
May 2012: Brennan implicated in major White House intelligence breach involving UK/Saudi Al-Qaeda infiltrator
Aug 2012: Brennan attacks critics of politically-driven White House intelligence leaks
Sept 2012: House Intel Committee Chairman Mike Rogers says changes in CIA’s Benghazi attack talking points blaming Mohammed video happened under deputies committee chaired by Brennan
Again, these are just some of John Brennan’s highlights. We could also add his laughable claims of no collateral casualties from his drone assassination program or his defense of trying Al-Qaeda operations chief Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court or his role in the White House back-door dealing with the UK on the release of Libyan Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi or his reference to Jerusalem as “Al-Quds” in a NYU speech or his claims that the 20 percent recidivism rate for GITMO detainees (those who returned to terrorism) was “not that bad”. But that would be piling on.
What should be clear is that John Brennan’s role in Barack Obama’s disastrous first term should preclude him from any further service in the second term. let alone a promotion.
There are plenty of avenues of investigation for Senate members, who will be voting on confirmation of Obama’s nominee, if they’re willing to look.
A stunning story out of Egypt on Friday (HT: Jonathan Schanzer at FDD) after a raid in northern Sinai uncovered a cache of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles bound for Hamas-controlled Gaza. The discovery was made in Be’r al-Hefn near Arish in an area known as a transit point for materials headed for the smuggling tunnels running from Sinai into Gaza.
The most remarkable part of the story is that the missiles were American-made, arriving from Libya according to multiple reports.
Egypt Independent reported:
The North Sinai Security Director seized a shipment of advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles at dawn on Friday.
The directorate received a tip that the missiles were being secretly stored in a repository in Be’r al-Hefn — just south of Arish, the capital of North Sinai — and would be smuggled through tunnels to the Gaza Strip, said a security source.
After informing the Interior Ministry in Cairo, two assistants to the interior minster led a large formation of police in a raid on the area. Be’r al-Hefn has often been used as an illegal storage area for explosives and weapons.
“With the help of secret informants, the police found the storage site, where they found six US-made advanced missiles inside large holes in the ground [that were waiting to be] smuggled to the Gaza Strip through tunnels,” the source said.
He said the shipment likely originated in Libya, and that the range of the rockets was 2 km.
That US-made weapons are finding their way from Libya should be of grave concern for American security officials. Presumably these are weapons provided by the Obama administration to the Libyan rebels in their fight against Gaddafi in 2011.
US weapons have also made their way to Syria via Libya with active US assistance according to reports. In October, Russia accused the US of sending Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, a claim that Defense Secretary Panetta denied.
Back in August I noted here at PJ Media the New York Times caught scrubbing one of its stories of any mention of CIA funneling arms to the Syrian rebels.
This is not the first time that US missiles have been bound for Gaza and Hamas. During Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, Hamas attempted to use American-made Stinger missiles they had acquired against Israel’s AH-64 ‘Apache’ helicopters to no effect since the weapons system identified the Israeli aircraft as friendly.
A Maan News Agency report on yesterday’s raid noted that authorities had recovered 17 French missiles several weeks ago in the same area.
Back on Sunday I broke the news here at PJ Media of the arrest of Abdullatif Aldosary in connection with the bombing of a Social Security Administration office in Casa Grande, Arizona, last Friday morning. I noted that while the bombing and Aldosary’s arrest had received local news coverage, there was a virtual blackout by the national media on the Iraqi refugee’s identity.
Yesterday I reported on details provided to the federal court on Monday during Aldosary’s initial court hearing, which included information on what was found when the FBI conducted a search of his Coolidge, Arizona, home last Friday night. Among the items recovered was a bomb-making manual that had been hidden behind a photograph on the wall. Also discovered were an AK-47 and a 9mm Ruger handgun, along with more than a thousand rounds of ammunition. Kerry Picket at the Washington Times also reported that they recovered several gallons of chemicals typically used in bomb making.
When authorities checked Aldosary’s bank statements, they found he had more than $20,000 despite the fact that he was a convicted felon, only worked as a day laborer, and had no visible means of supporting himself sufficient to warrant having that kind of balance.
But a bombshell report came out today based on information obtained by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who had received a request from Aldosary in November 2011 for assistance in obtaining a “green card.”
According to today’s news report, the Department of Homeland Security responded to Gosar’s request on behalf of Aldosary last year by saying that he was ineligible for a change in status because of “terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility”:
Gosar said DHS responded by saying Aldosary was not eligible for a permanent change to citizenship “pursuant to the terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility, and that “individuals who engage in terrorism-related activity … are barred from receiving various immigration benefits.”
DHS did not elaborate on what the activity was. Gosar wrote that to be barred from permanent status, under federal law the immigrant must have engaged in activity “indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily injury, a terrorist activity; to prepare or plan a terrorist activity; to gather information on potential targets for terrorist activity” or belong to “a terrorist organization” among other actions.
In light of the Casa Grande bombing, Gosar questioned why Aldosary was not detained and processed for deportation in November 2011, after it was determined he had engaged in terrorism-related activity.
The bombing happened about a block away from Gosar’s office.
“But for the grace of God, no one was injured in the bombing,” Gosar wrote.
Gosar also asked what efforts were made to track and monitor “a known terrorist.”
Gosar sent a letter to Homeland Security yesterday raising concerns about Aldosary being ruled ineligible for citizenship, but then not being detained and processed for deportation. Among the questions Gosar has asked DHS are:
1) Why wasn’t a known terrorist detained and deportation proceedings initiated once DHS concluded he was engaging in terrorism-related activity?
2) What efforts were made to track and monitor a known terrorist in Arizona?
3) Did DHS inform local law enforcement about this potential threat?
4) Was DHS aware of Mr. Aldosary’s prior criminal record?
5) What is the time frame to arrest and deport a resident alien once the DHS determines he or she has engaged in terrorism related activity?
All fair questions to ask. We’ll keep you informed about this case as developments warrant.
UPDATED: Iraqi refugee arrested for bombing Arizona Social Security office with IED, media silence ensues
Editor’s Note: Updates to this story follow the article.
The typically quiet town of Casa Grande, Arizona, was rocked by an explosion at the local Social Security Administration office early Friday morning of what appears to an improvised explosive device (IED). No one was hurt in the explosion, which occurred shortly before the office was scheduled to open. The explosion was reportedly heard and felt all over the area.
While the little town of Casa Grande and the nearby Phoenix area are talking about the incident, virtually no one else is. In fact, the only reason I was following the story is because I’m presently in the area and saw the initial reports on the explosion and continued to look into it .
Within 90 minutes of the explosion, police had a suspect in custody. But you wouldn’t know it from reading the establishment media reports this past weekend. One reason might be that the suspect is 47-year-old Abdullatif Aldosary of Coolidge, AZ, an Iraqi refugee.
On Friday, federal agents served a search warrant on his home. Aldosary has been on the radar of the Department of Homeland Security for at least the past couple of years.
Late Sunday afternoon, I confirmed with a source at the Phoenix FBI office that the case is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism. The source said that Aldosary is expected to be charged with a host of federal and state explosives and arson charges. (See update below.)
On Saturday, the Casa Grande Dispatch reported:
An explosive device was detonated Friday morning by the back door of the U.S. Social Security Administration office, shaking downtown Casa Grande, but no one was injured.
Federal agents, including those of the FBI, rushed to the scene. The FBI would not confirm whether anyone was in custody, but the Casa Grande Dispatch learned that a Coolidge resident, Abdullatif A. Aldosary, 47, was being questioned. The investigation involved agents’ going to his home at 4732 W. Lemon Ave., on the west side of Coolidge.
The device exploded at 8:24 a.m. at the federal office, 501 N. Marshall St. The back door and wall were charred and debris was thrown throughout the back parking lot, damaging a car parked nearby.
The office was not yet open but more than 10 employees were inside, police said.
A witness was able to provide police with a license plate number on a small dark-colored compact car that fled the scene. The registration showed an address in the Martin Valley subdivision of Coolidge. Coolidge Police Department officers found the vehicle at the Lemon Avenue address. The homeowner, Aldosary, was turned over to the FBI shortly before 10 a.m.
County recorder records show Aldosary bought the house on Aug. 12, 2008. According to court records, he was charged in September with assault and disorderly conduct. He also was charged in March 2008 with four counts of aggravated harassment at the request of the U.S. Homeland Security Department.
FBI, Homeland Security, Federal Protective Service and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were at the scene collecting evidence throughout the day.
Another news report states that Aldosary served eight months in prison for that earlier aggravated harassment case.
Even though Aldosary’s identity was known to news agencies on Friday after his arrest, national and international media outlets, such as CNN and Reuters which published reports late Friday night, noted his arrest but not his identity. And none but local media have reported Aldosary’s name ever since.
Now imagine if a Tea Partier — or even someone who shared the same name as a Tea Partier – had fire bombed a federal facility less than a month after Barack Obama’s reelection. Anyone think it would be getting more media coverage?
UPDATED (8:25p EDT): I just spoke again with my contact in the FBI Phoenix field office (who is not authorized to speak on behalf of the FBI office). This contact said that it is highly unlikely that Aldosary will be charged with any terrorism offense. While they are internally treating it like a domestic terrorism investigation, including looking at if he had any help constructing the explosive device, the FBI is saying very little and will prosecute this as a simple explosives and arson case because of “the political sensitivities involved.”
UPDATE #2: Please note that the Daily Kos was first out of the gate, blaming the bombing on “right-wing extremism”:
Today, At about 8:30 AM, it appears a small explosive was detonated at the rear door of a Social Security office in Casa Grande, AZ. Thankfully, nobody was injured. It is still early, and we cannot say that it is a political act, or even be sure that this is an act of domestic terrorism, but it does seem likely.
Assuming this is a bombing, and that the bombing was conducted by a right wing zealot opposed to big government (neither of which we know for sure), I think we are seeing the start of something that I have seen coming for awhile.
Daily Kos: Have narrative, will blog.
John McCain is a menace to American national security and should not be entrusted with the supervision of small animals, let alone be considered the elder GOP statesman on foreign policy.
There, I said it.
Over the past two years, McCain has taken virtually every position with respect to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and repeatedly proved to be catastrophically wrong.
Rewind to the early days of the so-called “Arab Spring”. In February 2011, as Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was telling Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was a “largely secular organization” and Obama himself went on national TV and said that the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t have a majority support in Egypt, McCain gave an interview on the topic with the German daily, Der Speigel.
As the fires of revolution were burning in Egypt and long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak was in his last days in office, McCain rightly warned that the Muslim Brotherhood should play no role in any transitional government:
SPIEGEL: What is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood?
McCain: I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic — at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government.
SPIEGEL: Are you afraid that someone like Mohamed ElBaradei is instrumentalized by the Muslim Brotherhood?
McCain: Oh yeah, I think it’s very clear that the scenario is very likely he could be their front man. He has no following nor political influence in Egypt. After all, he has lived outside of Egypt for most of his life.
SPIEGEL: A certain role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the transition process in Egypt seems acceptable to the Obama White House. Does that concern you?
McCain: It concerns me so much that I am unalterably opposed to it. I think it would be a mistake of historic proportions.
So far, so good. And yet McCain said he was “unalterably opposed” to the Muslim Brotherhood playing any transitional role in Egypt.
And yet a year later McCain and his pal Lindsey Graham were in Cairo following the arrest of more than a dozen US NGO workers, including the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, appealing for the release of the Americans.
Prior to the trip, in an interview he gave to Fox News McCain began to modify his stance and pushed back on Hannity’s criticism of the group:
In the case of Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is split. They have not obtained power yet. There are groups of them that want to have good relations with us. They may be an Islamic country, Israel is a Jewish state. So let’s wait and see.
See, the Muslim Brotherhood is just like Israel! And they’re split!
The report that McCain and Graham gave to the US media after their meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood was that the group could be dealt with, as expressed by Graham to the Wall Street Journal:
“After talking with the Muslim Brotherhood, I was struck with their commitment to change the law because they believe it’s unfair,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who was traveling with Mr. McCain. Mr. Graham and other lawmakers praised the Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party won a plurality of nearly 50% of the seats in Parliament, as a strong potential partner for the future of U.S. relations with Egypt.
That marks a dramatic change from several months ago, when some Republican politicians reacted warily to the Brotherhood’s rising clout. In April 2011, Mr. Graham said he was suspicious of the Brotherhood’s “agenda,” and that “their motives are very much in question.”
“I was very apprehensive when I heard the election results,” Mr. Graham said on Monday. “But after visiting and talking with the Muslim Brotherhood I am hopeful that…we can have a relationship with Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood is a strong political voice.”
In a statement McCain gave during that same Cairo trip he acknowledged meeting with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and expressed the support of the US for all parties involved in the new parliament:
Instead, we traveled here to meet with newly elected members of the Parliament from across the political spectrum, with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – and to participate in a conference with Egyptian and American businesses that seek to increase prosperity and development in both of our peoples. With all of these different groups, we have reaffirmed the support of the United States, and the Congress in particular, for the sovereignty and aspirations of the Egyptian people – and conveyed our strong desire to cooperate, as partners and friends, with the new democratic government.
But no sooner had McCain and Graham left Egypt than the Muslim Brotherhood rejected McCain’s comments that they played a “constructive role” in ending the stand-off over the NGO workers:
Senior members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have reacted angrily to statements by US Senator John McCain in which he thanked the group for its role in lifting the travel ban on indicted foreign NGO workers…
Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)MP Farid Ismail on Friday insisted that neither the Brotherhood nor its political arm the FJP helped lift the travel ban…
McCain said, “Last week in Cairo, we had meetings with the speaker of parliament and other newly elected parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and with Field Marshal Tantawi and other members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. These meetings reassured us that people of goodwill in both countries were working diligently to find a positive resolution to the recent crisis.
“We are encouraged by the constructive role played over the past week by the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party. Their statement of February 20 was important in helping to resolve the recent crisis.”
Two months later comments McCain made during that trip would come back to haunt him, as it was reported that McCain had approved the presidential candidacy of Muslim Brotherhood senior leader Khairat al-Shater. The Egyptian daily Shorouck reported:
Muslim Brotherhood sources told ‘Shorouck’ that deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat Al-Shater, discussed the decision of his candidacy for the presidency with U.S. Senator John McCain two months ago, and that the latter had assured him no objection of the Brotherhood becoming president. (Google translation)
What makes McCain’s approval of Shater’s candidacy is that it broke a pledge the Muslim Brotherhood made that they would not run a candidate for president. And just a few days after McCain’s endorsement of Shater was made public, so too was video of a speech Shater had given where he had promised that under a Muslim Brotherhood-led government, “every aspect of life is to be Islamicized”.
Whether knowingly or unknowingly, McCain had backed the most hardline elements of the Muslim Brotherhood.
So McCain had twice been played the fool for the Muslim Brotherhood.
But rather than take a pause and considering how he had been played, McCain waded right back into the thick of it again, lashing out at Rep. Michelle Bachmann on the floor of the Senate for daring to raise questions about the influence of Muslim Brotherhood in the Obama administration, particularly Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who Arab media sources, including Al-Jazeera, had reported several years prior the membership of several of her family members, including her brother and mother, in the Muslim Brotherhood.
In retrospect, Bachmann’s concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood seem prescient.
Then in September, McCain was again attacking fellow Republicans for introducing a resolution to end aid to Egypt and Libya after the 9/11 attack on the Cairo embassy and the terror attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, saying that “cutting aid would be foolish”.
So what’s McCain’s position today after Egyptian president (and Muslim Brotherhood leader) Mohammed Morsi’s seizure of dictator’s powers last week? McCain said on Sunday that the U.S. should consider withholding aid from Egypt — the very position he declared “foolish” and attacked fellow Republicans for just a few weeks ago.
What the most charitable reading of John McCain’s record on the Muslim Brotherhood would show is that he suffers from severe senility marked by rare occasions of lucidity. In the US Senate, that’s certainly nothing new. But why should anyone in the Republican Party or the American public put any trust in what John McCain has to say about anything?
With John McCain showing at least three different faces on the Muslim Brotherhood, who only knows which face we will see next. Regardless, we can fairly expect he’ll be wrong.